What is Facebook announcing on January 18, 2012?

Facebook has a big announcement scheduled for tomorrow. While nothing is official yet, here's what's the company is most likely to launch: more Facebook Timeline and more Open Graph apps.
Written by Emil Protalinski, Contributor

Update: Facebook Timeline gets new Open Graph apps

Facebook is going to make a big announcement in San Francisco on January 18, 2012. As you can see in the image above, late last week Facebook sent out a press invitation to an event scheduled for tomorrow. Here are the details:

Please join us for an invite-only event

Where: [redacted] When: January 18th, 2012 from 5:00pm to 8:00pm RSVP: Reply to this email or send to fbpressevents@fb.com Please RSVP by January 16th as space is limited. Registration opens at 4:30.

Drinks and appetizers will be served. This invite is non-transferrable.

I will not be attending the event, but my ZDNet colleague Rachel King will be. That being said, I will be covering the news all the same. Now, let's take a look at what's likely to be announced tomorrow.

A quick look at the rumor box shows a few possibilities: mobile advertising, online gambling, and Facebook Timeline for iPad. The last one is the most likely, but not just because the rumor specifically mentions January 2012, and it likely won't be just about Apple's little device.

I expect that tomorrow Facebook will announce another (or the final?) stage of its Timeline and Open Graph rollout. This will likely include another push to get users onto Facebook Timeline (currently, the rollout is working on an opt-in basis, followed by a seven-day grace period). I expect Facebook will either announce a timeframe by which everyone will have to get Timeline, or the company may even start switching users over.

The other piece of the puzzle is the Open Graph: the social networking giant wants each user's activity, both online and offline, to be documented on their Facebook Timeline, and apps will play a big part in that. In other words, this means the broader Open Graph apps will start trickling out (and Facebook did give developers January 2012 as the timeframe for when it will start approving them, after a few delays). We even have a new rumor, as of today, that says the apps are coming soon.

Facebook first announced the Open Graph apps at its f8 developer conference in September 2011: I'm talking about the third-party mini applications that "frictionlessly" and continuously share users' actions on Facebook after a user has given permission once. Tomorrow, Facebook will launch them on its platform, according to sources cited by AllThingsD.

If you're wondering about these new social apps, here's a quick refresher (also check out the video embedded above). They are designed to help you discover what your friends are currently doing, beyond the fact that they just Like something. Facebook wants developers to do more than just use the Liked verb (and the Read, Watched, and Listened verbs aren't enough either). During his keynote, Facebook co-founder and CEO Zuckerberg showed Cooked and Ran as possible examples of Open Graph Actions. The Open Graph is "a completely new class of social apps" Zuckerberg said at the time.

Some of these apps have already launched over the past few months, as I'm sure you've already seen on your Ticker, your News Feed, and maybe even other people's Timelines. These are just apps from Facebook's 17 launch partners though, however, and again only encompass articles, music, and videos (Read, Watched, and Listened). When your friends share that they have consumed such content, you have the option to consume it as well. As of last week, when it comes to music, you can even Listen With Friends at the same time.

Developers have been furiously coding apps that leverage Open Graph Actions over the last four months. Some of them have been done for a while, and have simply been waiting for Facebook to give them the green light. The company told developers their Actions must be "simple, genuine, and non-abusive." Here are the details:

  • Simple. Actions must correspond to single verbs and objects must correspond to single nouns. We will reject apps that corrupt the structure of graph by adding poorly named actions and objects as well as apps publishing activity that appear to be Requests.
  • Genuine. Your app must publish Open Graph actions that are based on actions that users take in your app.
  • Non-abusive. Do not mislead, confuse, or surprise users with unexpected posts. Action and objects must be well-formed and not violate our content policies.

In summary, I expect a Timeline update tomorrow and a flood of new Facebook apps. This will be quickly followed by a slew of complaints about how Facebook is pushing "oversharing" on its service, further invading user's privacy, and just plain changing things on the website. So, what actions are you most interested in?

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